- SPOILERS AHEAD … AND A FRANTIC NARRATIVE WRAP-UP THAT WILL HAVE YOUR HEAD SPINNING LIKE IT’S JUST BEEN CUT OFF BY A BAT’LETH.
So if the frenetic, helter-skelter, conveniently tied-up narrative is any guide, and I think it is, then the producers and writers of Star Trek Discovery were really eager to finish the season and go on a break.
Maybe the taxi was waiting outside to whisk them off to parts unknown? Perhaps, like Kramer, in their minds they were already sipping mai tais on the beach at Koh Samui? Whatever the issue, “Will You Take My Hand?” sounded less like an appealing invitation and more like an impatient request to “damn do it now! Take my f**king hand will ya?!”
It’s a pity really because while the first season, like most first seasons of TV shows was a little uneven and lacking in focus, it was a damn sight better than most initial seasons where the general vibe is “Great premise – now what the hell do we do with it?”
In contrast to this latter dynamic, Star Trek Discovery seemed to stride confidently forward into a crowded televisual landscape, with a strong sense of what it was and what and how it wanted to say.
This wasn’t simply because it was part of a longstanding franchise and had that pedigree and background to draw on; as Stargate Universe, franchise antecedents do not a coherent TV show make (for the record, it was cut off just as it was finally finding its voice).
From the get-go, Star Trek Discovery was a prepossessed entity, a show that ably and often brilliantly built on the franchise of which it was a part with a strong emphasis on diversity, inclusion and forward-thinking and respect for all, while also very much projecting its own unmissable voice.
It took staples of the Star Trek universe such as the Mirror Universe, enmity with the Klingons, the constant push-and-pull between the idealists and the pragmatists in the Federation, and indeed the entire Alpha Quadrant and ran with them, gifting us with invigorating storylines, great characters and an emotional resonance that in its finer moments matched anything Star Trek had given us up to this point.
So much good, and yet the final episode, while not bad, was a bit of a damp squib, a rushed narrative that seemed determined to get to the finish line, wrap things up and have everyone meet Captain Pike and the crew of the Starship Enterprise as quickly as 24th century humanly possible.
And boy didn’t that twist make your head spin with its spin and certain arrival and it’s just as sudden ending of the episode.
No sooner had Saru (Doug Jones), now back to Acting Captain after Mirror Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), dripping arrogance, sarcasm and condencension like leaking battery acid, went off into the wilds of the Federation to presumably foment trouble somewhere on the fringes of space.
God knows why Starfleet agreed to let such a morally loose cannon free amongst the good people of the Federation since while they made her a promise, she is under no ethical obligations to uphold her end of the bargain since she is a studiously ferocious ethics-free zone, and will likely cause much trouble wherever she goes.
Further narrative fodder perhaps? It’s the only explanation but be that as it may, it was yet another morally-questionable decision by Admiral Cornwell (Jayne Brook) who seemed to be willing to do anything to stop the Federation ending up an idealistic smoking ruin.
You can understand her desperation since Klingon fleets were arrayed around Earth ready to go to town but okaying the destruction of Q’onos, the Klingon homeworld and the effective genocide of its people? A step too far surely, and one that Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), who helped end the war she started, called her out, rather publicly it must be said, on the bridge of the Discovery.
Yep, they were prepared to go there with even Sarek (James Frain) logically backing it as the only option.
While Burnham saved the day, out-maneuvering Georgiou who gave up astonishingly easily given her unwillingness to accede on much up to this point, and coming with a whole other way to bring the Klingons around to ending the war, it all happened a tad too easily.
Before we knew it, and after Tilly (Mary Wiseman), who is hands and phasers down my favourite character of the show – sorry Burnham but that’s just the way it is – Burnham had convinced Georgiou to hand over her iPad o’ Death and Genocide, and give to L’Rell (Mary Chieffo) so she could use the bomb controlled by it, the one sitting down a volcanic shaft, to make the 24 houses agree to her as supreme leader by brute force.
As strategies go, it was a master move.
The Klingons respect only power and might so by giving L’Rell a whole heap of world-ending power and might, and by extension Tyler (Shazad Latif) who decided to join her since the Federation wants him not – how could you not want that hunk of Klingon-addled spunk? Sure he’s damaged goods but dear god, what a handsome exterior covers them – Burnham gave the chance to call the shots.
Oddly without knowing L’Rell wouldn’t just start the war all over again, with the combined and well-coordinated might of 24 houses behind her.
Apparently she knew that to rebuild they needed to cease the war and withdraw back to their legal borders, which was extremely narratively useful of her, and so the war ended in something like under 10 minutes.
Not so much a bang as a whimper (well until the iPad of Death and Destruction goes all bluescreen-y on L’Rell and she loses her bargaining chip), and a tad to easy and convenient, a disappointment since so much had been invested into the build-up.
Even the great moral conundrum raised by the Federation’s willingness to use planet wide destruction and death – shades of Hiroshima and Nagasaki perhaps? – came and went with barely a ripple, symptomatic of an episode committed to wrapping everything up and far too quickly.
“Will You Take My Hand? wasn’t a bad episode as such, and had some lovely moments here and there, but it honestly felt like it was written on the back of a napkin, filmed while the taxis were idling ready to whisk everyone off to massages and duty free shopping, and edited on someone’s laptop as they flew to Bora Bora.
We can only hope the vacation does them good and everyone returns ready for a more consistent and less rushed season 2, now with added Pike and Enterprise.
- So when, dear Star Trek Discovery fans, does the show return to our screens? Apparently it’s going to be 2019 at the earliest. In the meantime, check out Altered Carbon which is a brilliant, gorgeously-paced piece of sci-fi storytelling.